Hazelnut Espresso Torte

December 31, 2014

Need a simple, yet elegant (and definitely “grown-up) dessert for your holiday table? Try this espresso-fueled torte.

Hazelnut Espresso Torte

Varietal: Dessert Wine: Sherry or Tawny Port

Serves 6 to 8

This recipe is dedicated to Seattle’s ongoing love affair with coffee, a flavor that pairs perfectly with sweet, rich, Northwest hazelnuts. The cake alone is plenty good for dunking in a strong cuppa ‘joe, but transforms into an extravagant dessert when brushed with coffee liqueur and layered with creamy coffee frosting.

For the ultimate dessert pairing, try a good-quality dry Sherry or a Tawny (not Ruby) Port. The nutty notes in these two wines will pick up the earthy flavors in the hazelnuts. Hinzerling Winery, under the direction of winemaker and owner Mike Wallace, is one of the Northwest’s oldest and most venerable producers of high-quality dessert wines.

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of table salt
2 large eggs, beaten until frothy
1/2 cup prepared espresso or instant espresso powder, reconstituted according to package instructions
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (See Cook’s Hint, below)
1/4 cup Kahlua or coffee-flavored liqueur
Coffee Cream Icing (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons grated semi-sweet chocolate, optional

1. Arrange the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Generously grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with waxed paper, and grease and flour again.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center, add the eggs, and stir just until crumbly. Combine the espresso and the oil, and add one-third of the liquid at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the hazelnuts, blend well, and pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

3. Place the cake in the oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pan and the middle is springy-firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then loosen the edges with a dull knife and turn the cake out of the pan. Remove the waxed paper and allow the cake to cool completely on the wire rack.

4. With a long, serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into two even layers. Brush half of the coffee liqueur evenly over the bottom layer, then frost it with half of the Coffee Cream Icing. Place the remaining layer on top, brush with the remaining liqueur, and frost the top of the cake only, allowing any excess icing to dribble down the sides.

5. To serve, cut the cake into even slices. If desired, sprinkle a bit of grated chocolate over each slice.

Cook’s Hint: To toast hazelnuts, place the nuts in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until the nuts give off their aroma, shaking the pan occasionally. Watch closely so that the nuts do not burn. Remove the nuts from the heat. When cool enough to handle, rub off the skins with a clean kitchen towel.

Coffee Cream Icing
Makes 1 1/3 cups
1 cup mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese)
3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons milk

1. In a small mixing bowl combine the mascarpone cheese, brown sugar, espresso powder, and vanilla until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of the milk and stir well. If necessary, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of milk and stir until the icing reaches a thick, yet spreadable consistency.